A Stormtrooper with a Cause

Kevin D assembles his walking gear on the Twin Cities 3-Day

Kevin D. assembles his walking gear on the Twin Cities 3-Day

“I’m Eileen’s husband,” says Kevin this morning as he assembled his walking gear before sunrise. “Oh, and I’m a Stormtrooper,” he adds in a nonchalant way. It’s true. I had noticed him stride out of the Opening Ceremony two days ago in his full Star Wars gear, highlighted with a pink and white armband with a dedication to his wife. At first I thought the highly recognizable Star Wars costume was simply another fun way to walk the 60-mile route, but this was a dedication to Eileen who passed away in November 2012. They had met through the 501st, an international Star Wars organization, and both had matching Stormtrooper costumes and often worked with charities to brighten the mood and raise much needed funds.

Kevin D emerges from his pink tent to walk Day 3 of the Twin Cities 3-Day in honor of his wife

Kevin D. emerges from his pink tent to walk Day 3 of the Twin Cities 3-Day in honor of his wife

“We actually met for the first time in 2006, but she didn’t know who it was because I was in a Star Wars costume!” laughed Kevin. “We met officially one year later.” He flashed the photograph of him–very unrecognizable–in one of the variations of the costumes with Eileen smiling beside him, an arm wrapped around the white hardened plastic, unknowing that this would be her future husband. “I proposed to her in a friend’s Darth Vader’s suit!” He also confirmed that with a picture. (He did take off the mask to propose.) The memories, however, brought back tears, and Kevin stood in a field of disassembled pink tents remembering the legacy of his wife.

Kevin D embraces a neighboring walker at camp on the Twin Cities 3-Day as they remember his wife Eileen

Kevin D. embraces a neighboring walker at camp on the Twin Cities 3-Day as they remember his wife Eileen

“Eileen started walking the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® many years ago,” explained Kevin. “She has an aunt who is a breast cancer survivor, and she became a strong supporter of the Komen 3-Day over the past several years. This is my first 3-Day, and I’m doing this in her honor. I want to continue to do more around the country.” As we talked, a participant who had been tenting nearby exclaimed that she had known Eileen, and the two embraced remembering this extraordinary woman. The 3-Day offers much more than an opportunity to help others by raising money for breast cancer research; it offers the chance to heal, and we see this over and over as participants who have lost friends, family, wives, husbands, mothers, daughters, aunts, and grandmothers pick up a flag, a banner, a symbol of their loved one and step out onto the street to honor a wonderful life.

Good luck to the Twin Cities 3-Day walkers today in the heat and through the Closing Ceremony!

Kevin's armband dedicates his walk to his wife

Kevin’s armband dedicates his walk to his wife

Kevin as a stormtrooper moves out onto the route after the Opening Ceremony on the Twin Cities 3-Day, to the delight of children and adults on the route

Kevin as a stormtrooper moves out onto the route after the Opening Ceremony on the Twin Cities 3-Day, to the delight of children and adults on the route

Hands Together for Kathy Heins

Besides raising more than $60,000 in funds over 10 years of walking, Kathy Heins has led a team of fundraisers, Robb’s Ralliers, to raise more than $400,000 in funds for breast cancer research over the years they have participated!  Kathy has been been a walker in the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day for 10 years, and she is this year’s recipient of the Milestone Award for her commitment to the Twin Cities’ efforts in breast cancer awareness and research. Oh, and it’s her birthday today on Day 2 of the Twin Cities 3-Day.

Kathy Heins stops at Grab and Go "A" on Day 2 of the Twin Cities 3-Day to hug supporters (who were also wishing her a happy birthday!)

Kathy Heins stops at Grab and Go “A” on Day 2 of the Twin Cities 3-Day to hug supporters (who were also wishing her a happy birthday!)

“I had heard about the 3-Day from friends of mine who were co-survivors, but had young children at home, so couldn’t travel to other cities,” said Kathy. “In 2003, it was announced that the first 3-Day® would be held in the Twin Cities – as a survivor, I wanted to do something bigger than me and my battle.  Raising the money, training for the walk and participating in the event felt like the perfect thing.” She was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time just after the second Twin Cities 3-Day in 2005, and she committed herself to walk until her feet couldn’t carry her anymore.

Kathy Heins, the Twin Cities 3-Day Milestone Award recipient of 2013, stops on the route on Day 2

Kathy Heins, the Twin Cities 3-Day Milestone Award recipient of 2013, stops on the route on Day 2

When asked about her amazing success in fundraising, she responded, “I am blessed with amazing supporters! Family, friends and even people I didn’t previously know, have made a commitment to supporting me year after year.  As I meet new people, I share my story in hopes that I can rally them for support as well.”

As a veteran walker, Kathy recommends walking at your own pace and taking sweep vans if needed.  “What you’ve accomplished to date–the fundraising and the training–is amazing! Make sure you can walk through the finish line on Day 3! Enjoy camp life and soak in the experience.  Take time in the remembrance tent.  It’s extremely sad, but it will inspire you to keep up the fight.” Kathy’s attitude and view of the 3-Day as “inspiring, awesome, and hopeful” has been a great force in the fight against breast cancer and a great support to other walkers.  Congratulations Kathy on receiving the Milestone Award for 2013 in the Twin Cities!

Top Fundraisers for Twin Cities 3-Day

Congratulations were necessary tonight for the top fundraising individuals and teams for the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day, as these hardworking and dedicated breast cancer fighters put in the extra time and effort to do some outstanding fundraising.

Top Fundraising Team: Northern Nippys, $85789; Laura Lamson (Captain)

Laura Lamson, Captain of the team Northern Nippys accepts the award for the top fundraising team at the 2013 Twin Cities 3-Day

Laura Lamson, captain of the team Northern Nippys accepts the award for the top fundraising team at the 2013 Twin Cities 3-Day

Top Fundraising Crew Member: Kevin Burns, $4490; Lunch Crew

Kevin Burns accepts the award for top crew fundraiser for the 2013 Twin Cities 3-Day

Kevin Burns accepts the award for top crew fundraiser for the 2013 Twin Cities 3-Day

Top Individual Fundraiser: Mark Nadolny, $14370; Team for the Cures

Mark Nagnoly accepts the award for top individual fundraiser at the 2013 Twin Cities 3-Day

Mark Nadolny accepts the award for top individual fundraiser at the 2013 Twin Cities 3-Day

Fantastic work to the Northern Nippys, Mark, Kevin, and all the walkers and crew who did such a fantastic job in fundraising for the Twin Cities 3-Day!